“Shakespeare’s Histories” from Bernardo Mazon

In Fellowship, Literary, Producing, Shakespeare Dramaturgy Residency, Uncategorized on May 5, 2017 at 10:08 PM

Picture1One of my duties here is to assist the dramaturgy team on Henry IV Part 2. When I found out I was going to be working on that, I let out a long, anxious sigh—not because I wasn’t excited by the opportunity, but because I knew it was going to be a hell of an undertaking. Until this point, you could have asked me what I knew about Shakespeare’s Histories, and I would have said virtually para nada. Zip zilch zero. Never seen one, never dared read one. And now I’ve been assigned this play that lands right in the middle of the chronological saga. Hijole. I sighed because I want to do my job well, which means I have a lot of homework to do.

Fast forward to a week ago, I watched Henry IV Part 1. I say this honestly: I could tell it was a stellar show. Without saying anything about the story, I could at least say the production itself was phenomenal. But regardless, that pesky story went right over my head. I understood ni madre of what was going on up there.

As the literary resident, I’ll admit proudly that I have a particularly hard time with Shakespeare. Value judgements aside (though I am a fan, yes), I cannot watch or read a Shakespeare play without the overwhelming struggle and frustration. So any history play, especially one as planted in context, is daunting. On top of the difficulties there already are for this 21st Spanglish speaker, the entangled politics, the jimble jamble of names, and the historical references make it more difficult.

I see, though, that this uphill battle in comprehension isn’t unconquerably steep. Fortunately, the resources here are on another level, and everyone is on my side. Plus I’ve heard my mentors admit themselves that they still have to lean in to get the language. So a few days later I printed the text out and returned to that theater sin verguenza. No shame. I read the text as the play went on, and felt like I was starting to follow. Today, I went again (with my script) for my third viewing of Henry IV Part 1. I’ll confidently say I that I finally get it.

And. It. Is. Sick.

I love this play! The patience paid off, and it doesn’t feel as faraway as it used to. Before I didn’t have a high opinion on stories about kings and queens, let alone medieval England. Now I’m geeking out. I get what people mean when they say it’s captivating like a soap opera. It’s funny, it’s heartbreaking, and it’s totally accessible if you put your mind to it. I’m hungry and eager all to learn all these history plays, porque ya sabes: it’s like the Bard meets telenovelas.


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